Stellar Wave Rises: Monster Wave as Tall as Three Suns Rocks Giant Star

Stellar Wave Rises: Monster Wave as Tall as Three Suns Rocks Giant Star

Stellar Wave Rises: Monster Wave as Tall as Three Suns Rocks Giant Star

One extreme star system is giving new meaning to the phrase “it’s a wave-ride.”

The system intrigued researchers because it is the most dramatic “beating star” on record. Now, a new model reveals that the giant waves generated by the tides are repeatedly breaking in one of the stars in this system.

Heartbeat stars are stars whose brightness changes periodically, like the rhythm of a beating heart on an electrocardiograph machine. Stars in the Heartbeat star system orbit in elongated elliptical orbits. Just as the moon causes the tides of the oceans to rise and fall on the earth, the gravity of the stars causes the tides to rise and fall each time the stars approach each other. The tides elongate and distort the star’s shape, causing its broad and narrow sides to alternately face Earth, which in turn changes the amount of light coming from the star.

The new study explains why the variation in brightness from one extreme beating star system is about 200 times that of a typical beating star. The cause is a giant wave across a large star, which winds around a small companion star as it periodically approaches. These high waves, the study found, break up much like ocean waves and reach such heights and speeds that they collide with the surface of large stars.

Dubbed “heartbreak stars” by astronomers, the system offers unprecedented observations of how massive stars interact with each other.

Each collision of the star’s towering tidal waves releases enough energy to collapse our entire planet hundreds of times,” said Harvard & Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) theoretical astrophysics postdoctoral researcher and published in the journal Nature Astronomy, who reports the findings Says Morgan McLeod, author of the new study.” This is a really big wave.”

According to Professor Abraham (Avi) Loeb, McLeod’s advisor, director of CfA’s Theoretical Computation Laboratory and the paper’s other author, “The breaking waves of stars are as beautiful as the waves on the beach at sea.”

Heartbeat stars were first discovered when NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope exoplanet probe discovered the usually subtle pulsations of stellar brightness.

But this extreme heartbreak star is anything but subtle. The larger star in this system is nearly 35 times more massive than the Sun, and together with its smaller companion is officially called MACHO 80.7443.1718. The system is officially called MACHO 80.7443.1718 not because of the strength of the star, but because changes in the brightness of this system were first recorded in the 1990s by the MACHO project, which was searching for signs of dark matter in the galaxy.

While most heartbeat stars change in brightness by only 0.1%, MACHO 80.7443.1718 caught astronomers’ attention because of its unprecedentedly dramatic change in brightness, up and down by as much as 20%. I don’t know of any other heartbeat star that fluctuates so wildly,” McLeod said.

To solve the mystery, McLeod created a computer model of MACHO 80.7443.1718. His model captured how the interacting gravity of the two stars generates giant tides in the larger star. The resulting tidal wave rises to about one-fifth the radius of the giant star, and the height of the wave is equivalent to the height of three suns stacked on top of each other, or about 2.7 million miles.

Simulations show that this giant wave begins as a smooth, organized swell, like an ocean wave, then wraps around itself and breaks up. As anyone who goes swimming knows, powerful ocean waves lash out, leaving a “big foamy mess” where there once were smooth waves, launching sea spray and foam.

The enormous energy released by the waves hitting MACHO 80.7443.1718 has two effects, McCloud’s model shows. It causes the surface of the star to spin faster and faster, pushing stellar gas outward and forming a rotating, glowing stellar atmosphere.

Once a month, the two stars pass each other and a new monster wave crosses the surface of the injured star. Cumulatively, this agitation causes the large star MACHO 80.7443.1718 to bulge at its equator by about 50% above the poles. And with each new wave that passes through, more material is ejected outward, like “spinning pizza dough flipping off chunks of cheese and sauce,” McLeod says. According to McLeod, this characteristic glow in the atmosphere was one of the key clues that the waves were breaking up on the surface of the star.

As unprecedented as MACHO 80.7443.1718 is, it is unlikely to be the only one. Of the approximately 1,000 Heartbeat stars discovered so far, about 20 show large brightness variations similar to the system simulated by McLeod and Loeb. This “lost love star” may be one of the first of a growing number of objects,” says McLeod.” We are already planning to look for more broken-love stars, looking for glowing atmospheres that have been bounced off by their breaking waves.”

According to McLeod, we are lucky to have captured this star at this time, and “we are watching a brief moment of transformation in the long life of the star.” And by looking at the giant waves that cross the stellar surface, astronomers hope to gain a better understanding of the close interactions that shape the evolution of stellar pairs.

Source: Stellar Wave Rises: Monster Wave as Tall as Three Suns Rocks Giant Star

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Stellar Wave Rises: Monster Wave as Tall as Three Suns Rocks Giant Star

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